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Study reveals poverty scenario in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María

By on November 28, 2017

SAN JUAN – The Census Information Center (CIC) of the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey has conducted an analysis, based on Census Bureau data for 2016, on the island’s potential poverty levels in the aftermath of Hurricane María.

An estimated 9% of the people who had low incomes are now below the poverty line after the weather event. (Jaime Rivera / CB)

“The hurricane exacerbated the levels of poverty that existed in Puerto Rico and it is likely that today at least half of the country is below the poverty level. Depending on the length of the recovery and the more people lose income and jobs it is possible that the 254,905 people who had an income between 25 [%] and 50% over [the] poverty [level] also fall below poverty levels, potentially raising the [overall] rate to 59.8%,” the CIC’s director, Dr. José Caraballo Cueto, said in a written statement.

According to a potential scenario, the CIC said 9% of the people who had near-poverty incomes before María, may have fallen below the poverty level in the months following the hurricane, changing the rate to 52.3% from 44.3%. This is because many people who had jobs before the hurricanes now have more expenses and less income, either because they are working fewer hours or because they lost their jobs.

Distributing the population by age category–17 years old or younger, 18-24 years old, 25-64 years old and 65 or older–reveals that the highest poverty rate in 2016, both for men and for women, was 57% for those 17 or younger.

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The analysis also revealed a disparity in child poverty rates among municipalities: Maricao has an 82% rate and Barranquitas, Comerío and Patillas 74%, while Toa Alta has 35%, and Gurabo and Guaynabo 37%.

“Even without considering the ravages of the hurricanes, the child population is the most vulnerable when poverty is segregated by age. The recovery should prioritize those municipalities where of every 10 children there are seven or eight in poverty. They are marginalized children who cry out to be guaranteed the same opportunities as other privileged children,” the CIC director said.

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